foodStamps - CopySt. Louis Area Foodbank SNAP Coordinator Andrea Hale and her boyfriend Chris Flanigan took the SNAP (Food Stamp) Challenge in September. They wrote a series of blog posts about the experience and how it felt to live in the shoes of someone who struggles with hunger.

Their two final blog posts from Sept. 21, 2014 are below. Please visit their blog to read more about their experiences.

What’s going to taste best today? FREEDOM TOMORROW.

I feel weak. I feel as though I’ve failed somehow, despite completing the SNAP Challenge successfully. At times I was frustrated, other times I was just hungry.. sometimes it felt easy, and other times it felt like torture.
Today is the last day of the SNAP Challenge and I’m already looking forward to eating “normally.” Andrea and I are already plotting our next dining moves. We’re knee-deep in excitement at the thought of going to CostCo and Schnucks to buy food.
I was more than ready for dinner about halfway through my workday. I texted Andrea asking her to describe the pork loin, haha. I had a plan to briefly live vicariously through her. Unfortunately, the only satisfaction I had during the afternoon was a bowl full of bagged salad mix.
Andrea was gone at a concert, and I enjoyed the pork loin and potatoes all by myself. It felt magical. It was the first decent portion of protein I’d had all week, besides the chicken tacos.
As the SNAP Challenge concludes, I reflect back a bit on my experience. I now have a taste of what it’s like to live in a SNAP recipient’s shoes. Just a taste. I had freedom to look forward to on Monday. I had an end in sight. Many SNAP recipients live in the situation on a long-term basis. The SNAP Challenge is a SNAP recipient’s life. It’s not a game.
By Chris Flanigan

Looking Back on the Past Week

As we finish the last day of the SNAP Challenge, I wanted my final entry to be a reflection of all the things I learned from my experiences.

I have worked with people seeking food assistance and helping them through the sometimes complex process of applying for SNAP, but I didn’t have complete understanding until I walked in their shoes for a week.

Some key realizations I had during the process –

Freedom – I have definitely taken for granted my ability to buy a variety of nutritious food.  This freedom goes out the window on food stamps.  I was concerned about what was cheap and what would stretch.  I got sick of certain types of food and I was only eating everything for just a week.  Also, I missed the freedom to run out and grab a snack or a drink.

Effort – We put a decent amount of effort into planning a menu and calculating to make sure we were within budget.  I think about someone who might be juggling 2 or even 3 jobs and whether they would have the time or energy to meticulously plan all their meals and budget to make sure they had enough for the whole month.

Hunger – I never thought this much about food in a strategic way and I haven’t been that hungry in quite sometime.   I never realized how the little snacks I eat here and there kept my appetite under control until I didn’t have the luxury.

After taking this challenge, it further solidifies my support in the SNAP program. I have increased appreciation for all the awesome, interesting people I get to meet and the amazing job I have the opportunity to do everyday.

I highly recommend you take the challenge to see if you can live on $4.26 a day.  I guarantee it will open your eyes to those experiencing food insecurity.

By Andrea Hale

St. Louis Area Foodbank IL CSFP/SNAP Coordinator